Anne Vane (1710-1735) of Raby Castle has been remembered through history as a royal mistress; a woman entangled in a doomed love triangle between Frederick, Prince of Wales, and his once-close friend, Lord John Hervey of Ickworth. Even more scandalous for her time was the fact that she bore two illegitimate children with the Prince.

Like many women in history, her story, as it has been passed down, seems to orbit around the lives of men: she has been largely remembered as the lover of both Frederick and Hervey, and the mother of the Prince’s illegitimate children. On International Women’s Day in an attempt to reclaim her story, Raby Castle’s 2020 intern, Dorothea Fox considers another aspect of her identity—one that she constructed by her own merit. This is her identity as an artist.

Displayed within a bedroom at Raby Castle are seventeen sepia drawings illustrating various scenes from the 17th-century Spanish novel, Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra. Each of these drawings bears the signature A.VANE, while two of them are dated to 1733 and 1735, corresponding with Anne’s lifetime

In the course of exploring 18th-century illustrations to Don Quixote, it was discovered that Anne’s drawings were copied after the designs of the French artist, Charles Antoine Coypel (1694-1752). And what excellent imitation it was: the 4th Duchess of Cleveland’s Handbook to Raby Castle declares that the artworks were ‘most intelligently and carefully executed’.

These drawings provide a glimpse of a woman beyond the role of royal mistress. Anne obviously devoted a great deal of time and care to them. While history has cast her as little more than a bit-player in the scandals of the court, her Don Quixote illustrations—her artistic legacy—show a different side to her life.

Anne’s Life in the Court of George II

Born in 1710, Anne was the daughter of Gilbert Vane, 2nd Lord Barnard and his wife Mary Randyll whose own marriage had scandalized Gilbert’s parents. Little is known about her childhood and adolescence, but she probably entered the Royal Court in 1725, at the age of fifteen as Maid of Honour to Caroline, the Queen Consort to George II. Over seven years, between 1725 and 1732 Anne was said to have been romantically involved with both Lord Harrington and Lord Hervey, before entering into a relationship with the King and Queen’s son, Frederick, the Prince of Wales.

Her position as his mistress was, at first, probably unofficial and unannounced. However, the Prince’s reputation as a womaniser was no secret to the Court. His relationships with women were referenced by Horace Walpole in his Memoirs of the Reign of King George II:

‘[Prince Frederick’s] chief passion was women, but like the rest of his race, beauty was not a necessary ingredient. Miss [Vane], whom he had debauched without loving, and who had been debauched without loving him so well as either Lord Harrington or Lord Hervey, who both pretended to her first favours, had no other charms than of being a Maid of Honour, who was willing to cease to be so upon the first opportunity.’[1]

Frederick, Prince of Wales (1707-1751) by Jacopo Amigoni ©Raby Estate

When Anne became pregnant she requested leave of absence from her duties, and the Prince had her installed in a house in Soho Square, subsidising her domestic life with £1,600 a year

Anne’s relationship with Frederick was more openly declared upon the birth of their son, who was publicly christened, in June 1732, by the name of Fitz-Frederick Vane. However, the relentless court gossips gave some dispute as to the paternity of Fitz-Frederick. Robert Walpole had been assured by both Lord Harrington and Lord Hervey that they were the true father. Despite those rumours, the Prince was himself convinced that he had conceived the child.

In autumn of that year, Anne moved into a new house in Grosvenor Square, next door to the Bishop of Salisbury. The fascination for her situation gave her near-celebrity status, but also made her an easy target for gossip in newspapers and other publications.

Many of the writings about Anne from this time take the form of satirical prints, plays, stories and poems, which complicates our picture of her. She is cast as a ‘fallen woman’, fashioned as the character of ‘Vanella’: a lesson to unmarried women that bad things would befall them should they deviate from a path of chastity.

After the birth of her son, it seems that Anne’s life began to take a downward turn. In April 1733, she gave birth to a daughter who tragically died within two hours, having first been baptised Amelia. In that same year, Frederick began to drift away from Anne. London gossip reported that he had fathered a child with Anne’s chambermaid before setting his sights on other women.

Not long afterwards, in anticipation of his marriage to Princess Augusta of Saxe-Gotha, the Prince sent letters to Anne persuading her to leave England immediately. He requested that she spent two or three years in Holland or France while he took care of Fitz-Frederick’s education in England. A resentful struggle ensued until it was settled that she would keep her house in Grosvenor Street, with an annual upkeep of £1600 for life, and that she would not be parted from her son.

Not long after this disagreement was resolved, in 1735, that Anne’s health started to decline rapidly. In December, she travelled to Bath to ‘use the waters’ for the recovery of her strength. She died there in March 1736, having received news that her son Fitz-Frederick had died from convulsion fits in Grosvenor Street about a week before.

It was reported that Frederick’s mother and sister thought him ‘more afflicted for the loss of this child than they had ever seen him on any occasion, or thought him capable of being.’[2] The Prince himself died in 1751, at the age of 44, before he could ascend to the throne. After the death of George II in 1760, the crown passed to Frederick’s son with Augusta, George III.

Anne’s Don Quixote Drawings

Anne Vane’s seventeen drawings were excellently copied after Coypel’s designs for Don Quixote. Coypel was one of the most celebrated illustrators of this novel in the 18th century. The designs that he created took on a life of their own as collections of images independent of the novel.

Coypel’s illustrations were celebrated across Europe. It is likely that Anne encountered the images as engravings within an English folio, whichwould have permitted her close and intimate study of them.

The engravings provided illustrative accompaniments to Cervantes’s text, or, in their own albums, permitted a wide audience to view Coypel’s famous designs. And Anne’s drawings, provided a means of self-expression: a demonstration of her artistic talents and, presumably, her fondness for the story of Don Quixote.

Comparing Anne’s drawings with the engravings not only reveals her outstanding skill in copying, but also her skill in translating one form of image into another. By reproducing the prints into the medium of pen and ink, she gave the designs an appearance of light and freshness. In an engraving, the printmaker applies a system of hatching—lines, dots, dashes and other kinds of marking—in order to produce varying tones with the ink. The closer the marks are placed together, the darker those areas will appear.

In the case of the Don Quixote engravings, this process has resulted in quite a dark and heavy rendering of the illustrations, encumbered by areas of dense shadowing and cross-hatching. Anne, however, was not burdened by this process. She was able to work directly onto the white surface of the paper and apply much smoother textures with an ink wash. With her pen, she highlighted all of the delicate and minute details of the figures, foregrounds and backgrounds.

Sancho’s departure for the Island of Barataria. A drawing by Anne Vane copied from an engraving by Charles Antoine Coypel (1694-1752) for Don Quixote de la Mancha by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra ©Raby Estate

The fact that Anne Vane was a copyist is no reason to depreciate her artworks; it was in keeping with the ideals of upper-class women’s accomplishments in the 18th century and beyond. During this time, women’s education was social and gender-specific. There was a strong and widely-held belief that what they were taught should prepare them for their future lifestyle. A central theme was modesty and obedience, and women’s education thus fostered no great expectations for a life beyond the domestic realm.

Anne was a self-consciously “amateur” artist: someone who could practise the arts for pleasure, thereby distinguishing herself from someone who was motivated by professional or monetary ambition. An abundance of free time is required for the amateur to practise the arts. It therefore follows that artistic pursuits—such as drawing, watercolour painting, music and dancing—were encouraged amongst upper-class women confined to the home. In turn, the talents and social graces demonstrated by the lady amateur were seen to increase her appeal on the matrimonial market.

Ladies’ “accomplishments”, moreover, served to reinforce social differentiation between the aristocracy and the increasingly wealthy middle classes. Knowledge of the arts, and the ability to perform, create and converse appropriately, formed part of a constantly changing system of taste and refinement that was regulated by the upper classes—people who had the time and resources to devote themselves to such activities.

In their artistic tuition, young ladies learned to develop much of their skill by copying the works of others. ‘Originality’, ‘authenticity’ and ‘genius’ were, at this time, the criteria for discerning the artworks of professional male artists. They had greater access to the public realm of art workshops, academies and galleries. Elite women, however, were taught to entertain prospects no higher than seeing their art and handiwork displayed within family rooms. They possessed neither the training nor the expectation to produce ‘original’ works painted in oil, or indeed the gender-laden concept of the ‘masterpiece’.

In these ways, Anne’s status as an amateur and copyist reinforced her socio-economic situation. Her ventures in art—faithfully reproducing Coypel’s illustrations—were compatible with the concept of the ‘ideal woman’ within aristocratic circles. She demonstrated the artistry and flair that young ladies were taught to aspire to. In executing this expansive and clearly time-consuming project, Anne certainly possessed a high degree of ambition and determination.

It is interesting to view the artworks in relation to the events of her life and the decisions that she appeared to make. The fact that her creative endeavours are reflective of the ideals for a woman of her class is not in agreement with the relationships that she pursued out of wedlock. Whether she actively sought out these relationships, or even fully consented to them, however, we cannot know.

What could have motivated her to endure such scandal? Just as she demonstrated in her drawing project, she was evidently, in some sense, ambitious. It is highly likely that she had hoped to raise her position by entering into a liaison with the prince. Even after their relationship was over, she would have still been supported in London with a sizeable house and income. The Prince was also a dedicated patron of the arts and knowledgeable of painting; they may well have bonded over a shared love of art and design.

As for her relationship with Hervey, perhaps there was genuine affection between them. Or perhaps he seemed to provide a sense of security for her, particularly when she was in a vulnerable position after the end of her relationship with the Prince. But, without being able to access Anne’s own words, we can never truly comprehend her emotions, motives and decisions.

What we can learn from her drawings, nevertheless, is that she possessed a lot of talent, creativity and attentiveness. If it was not for her illness and early death, perhaps she might have been able to complete the whole series of twenty-five illustrations. There is this whole other side to Anne—as an accomplished artist—that allows us to see a more rounded picture of her life: a life that was not defined solely by the notoriety that surrounded her.

The story of Anne Vane and these remarkable drawings are explored in the Women of Raby Tour at Raby Castle.  These tours, launched for International Women’s Day 2020, will be available once again as soon as Government guidelines permit.

Dorothea Fox carried out an internship at Raby Castle as part of her postgraduate studies in visual culture at Durham University during the summer of 2020.

[1] H. Walpole, Memoirs of the Reign of King George the Second (London: 1847), p. 75.

[2] Hervey, J., Memoirs of the Reign of George the Second, from His Accession to the Death of Queen Caroline, edited by Croker, J.W. (London: 1855), p. 26.

Main blog image shows Hon. Anne Vane, (1710-1735), Circle of Enoch Seeman  ©Raby Estate

Calling all young artists!

We need your help to design the eggs for our Easter trail.

Download the template below to complete your own design and return to us by Sunday 14th March 2021. 

The top 10 designs will be included in our Easter trail at Raby Castle, Park and Gardens, with the winners receiving entry to the trail during the Easter holidays and a prize.


Download Easter Egg Design Template

The Walled Gardens at Raby Castle are glorious in any season, and spring is no exception.

Last spring the Gardens were closed to visitors during the first National Lockdown, and much of the Garden Teams hard work went unseen by visitors. We are delighted that this spring visitors will again be able to enjoy this beautiful season in person at Raby.

Spring Highlights in the Walled Gardens

As the days grow steadily longer, the promise of springtime begins to emerge in the Walled Gardens – snowdrops (Galanthus) are the first spring flowers to appear. These delicate flowers are remarkably hardy, and can be seen in the Park and Gardens until the end of March.

Following soon after scented daffodils (Narcissus) and delicate Erythronium (dog’s tooth violet ‘Pagoda’) flowers bring a freshness to the gardens, and the first bursts of spring colour. Another spring favourite is the delicate Snake Heads (Fritillaria meleagris), which get its name from the chequered snakeskin pattern on their bell-shaped flowers.

Later in the month visitors can enjoy the pretty spring blossom on the magnificent fruit trees that line the walls of the garden, with varieties of apple, pear and plum trees in full bloom. The fruit trees and yellow Forsythia shrubs are a haven for bees and butterflies that return to the Walled Gardens throughout spring.

In the central Rose Garden, flanked by the magnificent yew hedges, the formal borders look spectacular with a varieties of tulips (including Angelique, Black Parrot and Webbers Parrot) bringing bright bursts of vibrant colour.

Later in spring frothy allium stems will provide a contrast to the neat lines of the box hedging

Watch our Garden mindfulness video for a preview of what’s in store.

Spring Tips from the Garden Team:

  • Clear borders removing any branches and dead foliage that may have gathered over the autumn and winter months. Gently aerate the soil and this will encourage new life to strike away for the spring. Collecting fallen stalks and dead branches from the borders helps prevent bacteria and pests infecting your plants.
  • Spring is a great time for a ‘Spring’ clean. Clean your greenhouse or cold frame by washing the glass (inside and outside) and removing any moss. Gently sterilize seed trays ready for summer and autumn growing.
  • Don’t forget to feed your borders. Fork in some good compost (or manure) into your garden borders which helps to put nutrients back into the soil. Do this gently so as not to disturb and spring bulbs you have planted.
  • Spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus, are planted in the Autumn months. If you start your spring bulbs off in pots, March is a good time to plant your spring potted bulbs outdoors in borders or containers.
  • Spring is a good time to scarify your lawn, to get it in good condition for the warmer months ahead. Scarifying or raking the lawn helps to remove any moss and dead clippings, allowing the soil to breath. This also helps prevent the lawn from becoming water-logged.
  • Get planning for summer and think about your summer planting schemes. During the spring months plant out any tender stemmed summer plants. At Raby we plant out our Dahlia bulbs during the spring, ready for spectacular summer colour.
  • Take some time to enjoy your garden without any distractions. Spring is the season of new life and although there are always plenty of jobs to do in the garden, it is important to stop and appreciate the fruits of your labour too. Enjoy a cuppa as you listen to the birdsong.

Book Park and Gardens tickets

To celebrate National Pie Week, our Estate Chef Tom Parry has created this delicious recipe using estate reared Raby Longhorn beef.

This rich slow cooked Longhorn Beef pie is best prepared in advance and is the perfect dish to enjoy after a long walk. Simply prepare the beef filling and keep in the fridge, then add the pastry topping when ready to bake.

Preparation time: 30 mins

Cooking time:  3 hours

Serves: One large pie feeds six people 


  • 900g     Diced Longhorn Beef steak
  • 15g          Butter
  • 4g            Sweet Paprika (not hot)
  • 30g         Plain flour
  • 28g         Olive oil
  • 250g      Red onion, sliced into rings
  • 2              Garlic cloves finely chopped
  • 400g     Sliced Button mushrooms
  • 3 stalk   Celery (cut into 1-inch pieces)
  • 100g       Carrot (cut into 1 inch dice pieces)
  • 700ml   Beef Stock
  • 4g            Chopped fresh thyme
  • 4g            Chopped fresh parsley
  • 30g         Tomato purée
  • 30g          Dijon mustard
  • 150ml     Crème fraiche
  • 500g       All butter puff pastry (shop bought)
  • 1                Egg yolk, lightly beaten
  • 30g          Red Currant Jelly
  • Sea Salt and cracked black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C/fan 140°C/gas mark 3.
  2. Pat the meat dry with kitchen paper. Put the flour on a large plate or tray, and season. Coat one-third of the meat in the flour. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick frying pan until hot and fry the floured meat over a medium-high heat to seal. When the meat is just brown, remove it from the pan using a slotted spoon and transfer to a flameproof casserole dish. Divide the remaining meat into 2 batches and repeat the flouring and browning, adding more oil if needed.
  3. Add the onion to the frying pan, with a little more oil if necessary, and fry for 3 minutes or until golden brown, stirring frequently. Add the celery and carrots and stir to mix, then fry for 2 minutes before tipping the vegetables on top of the meat in the casserole dish.
  4. Pour the beef stock, tomato puree over the mixture and add the redcurrant jelly into the casserole dish. Mix well and bring to the boil, stirring. Cover the casserole and cook for 2½ hours or until the meat is tender. Remove from the oven, taste the gravy for seasoning and leave to cool. If you prefer, the filling can be transferred to a slow cooker and cooked on a medium heat setting for 4 hours.
  5. Fold in the crème fraiche to the cooled mixture, which will give the pie filling a creamy richness.
  6. Preheat the oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas mark 7. Roll out the pastry and cut out a lid and a strip for the lip of the pie dish. Stir the parsley and thyme into the filling, then transfer the meat and vegetables to the pie dish using a large spoon, together with enough of the gravy to come just below the lip of the pie dish. Brush water around the lip of the pie dish then cut the pastry strip into smaller pieces and place the strips on the moistened lip. Moisten the strips with water, cover with the lid and press to seal.
  7. Trim and crimp the edge with a fork, then brush the pastry lid with beaten egg to glaze. Use the trimmings to make decorations and re-glaze with as much of the remaining egg as needed. Cut a small slit in the centre of the pie lid.
  8. Bake the pie for 30-35 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden brown. If you have any gravy left over, reheat until bubbling, pour it into a jug, and serve alongside the pie. Serve the pie with new potatoes a selection of seasonal spring vegetables.


Download Longhorn Beef Pie Recipe


Raby Castle regularly hosts research placements for students who are training for careers in heritage and curation. Despite the challenges of the past 12 months this tradition continued during 2020, albeit virtually, and we are delighted to share some of the fascinating stories about Raby’s oriental ceramic collection which were uncovered by a group of Chinese students who joined us for a placement as part of their studies, at Leicester University’s internationally renowned School of Museum Studies.

Students Xinyi, Manle, Sijia and Suwei were excited to have the opportunity to study Raby’s fine collection of European and Oriental Ceramics, which is on display throughout the Castle.

Xinyi originates from Jingdezhen, the Chinese porcelain “Capital of China” and has had a life-long interest in ceramic culture and technique. Former archaeologist Sijia was more familiar with China’s more distant past and the placement offered an opportunity to learn about more recent centuries through Chinese and Japanese decorative arts.

A Brief History of the Collection

Generations of the Vane family appear to have collected ceramics from China and Japan – a tradition that continues even to this day. During the earliest years of the 19th century, fellow enthusiast, the Prince Regent (later King George IV) visited Raby with his brother and was treated to a display of the castle’s collection in a specially designed “Chinese Salon”. Some pieces in the Raby collection would have looked very familiar to the Prince, including a stunning set of porcelain model pagodas, identical to a set that he had purchased for his own home at Brighton Pavilion. These striking pagodas remain a firm favourite with visitors to the castle today.

The lesser-known pieces in the Raby collection are equally intriguing and were the focus of closer study by the four students. Each student was supplied with detailed photographs of around 20 items. They researched form, decoration, function and technique, as well as wider stories of manufacture, trade, fashion and export. 

Fairytale Characters

In this country, those of us that have grown up with Western traditions might see an illustration of a girl in a red cloak alongside a wolf and know immediately that it represents the fairytale character Red Riding Hood – not so obvious if you haven’t been brought up with that story. The same is true for those who are unable to recognise the many cultural nuances evident in Chinese ceramic decoration.  For our four Chinese students recognising what might need explanation to a Western audience brought new meaning to the collections.  At the end of her placement, Manle felt that her own cultural identity had brought a greater level of depth to the information that she had been able to share with the Raby team. From our perspective it added rich layers of detail that otherwise may have been overlooked.

Nowhere is this insight clearer than in one of the pieces depicting Chinese figures and text,  researched by student Suwei. Suwei found that the text and the figures on the vase came from the Wu Shuang Pu, or ‘Table of Peerless Heroes’, a 17th century woodblock print containing a collection of beautiful illustrations of historical figures and folk heroes. The two figures depicted on this vase were identified as the male and female folk-heroes Lü Zhu and Qian Liu.

Lü Zhu (ca.250-300), whose name means ‘green gem’, was the favourite concubine of the wealthy Shi Chong. When a powerful General demanded that she be ‘given’ to him, Shi Chong refused and his enemy sent troops to invade to take her by force. Rather than be captured, Lü Zhu chose death rather than submission. The text is a poem that tells of her brave and tragic end.

The male figure, Qian Liu (852-932) was a warlord and the founder of the Kingdom of Wuyue (Nowadays Zhejiang and Jiangsu Province in Southeast China) during the late Tang period. Qian Liu was named the Prince of Yue in 902 with the title of Prince of Wu added two years later. The text is a poem praising of his loyalty to the Tang Empire and his achievements as a local governor.

But in examining the poetry, Suwei spotted a couple of anomalies. Some words and lines of the usual poems were missing. This, she felt, might reflect the fact that these items were being produced on such a huge scale that the painter perhaps chose to omit some words and sentences to speed up the decoration process. We wonder whether anyone before Suwei had spotted this!

Stories of Global Trade

Xinyi was pleased to find that the collection at Raby Castle demonstrated examples of typical cultural exchanges between the two nations. These stories of cultural exchange provide a window on the history of global trade and networks.

Once piece studied by student Sijia, was a “Kraak” porcelain bowl. Her research highlighted the links between “Kraak” (made in Jingdezhen during the Wanli period of the Ming Dynasty 1573-1620) and the Dutch East India Company who brought examples back to Europe for auction as early as 1602. Archaeological excavations in China have helped build understanding of the trade and export of ceramics from this early period, including routes routinely used by smugglers when exports were banned.

This wider history of global trade was researched more fully by Manle, including the background of Chinese export-ware and links between China and Europe during 17th and 18th centuries. This also meant comparing items that were made in China for the domestic market with those that became popular in Europe, looking at interactions between China, Europe and Japan.

A Lasting Legacy

Despite not being on-site at Raby Castle, the four students were able to provide new insight into the pieces they researched, and the castle team were thrilled with what they discovered. Their collective research and the cultural context they shared with the team added layers of rich detail to our understanding of these beautiful items, giving us greater appreciation of the makers and collectors of the past. But what happens next?

This blog shares just a tiny fraction of the information they unearthed. Their research will be added to the castle’s collections database where it can then be used to help to interpret the history of the castle, its owners and collections, their work will help us to create new art tours, and to contribute to exhibitions and art projects.

Although Manle, Xinyi, Suwei and Sijia were not able to visit Raby Castle last summer, we remain in touch with them as they embark on their careers and look forward to welcoming them to Raby Castle when it is possible for them to visit, to see the collection in person.

Other articles you may enjoy:

Our Favourite Things: A Personal Look at Raby’s Collections

Behind the Scenes – The Octagon Drawing Room at Raby Castle

Whatever Happened to Raby’s ‘Museum of Natural History’?


Recipe by Estate Chef Tom Parry

To mark Shrove Tuesday our chef Tom has shared his ultimate pancake recipe for you to make at home. His recipe is a modern take on a traditional Pancake recipe from the Raby archives, which is also reproduced below. You’ll find a link to download Tom’s recipe at the bottom of the page.

Preparation time: Less than 15 mins

Cooking time: 15 mins

Serves: Makes enough for two people


  • 2 Large free-range eggs, separated
  • 25g Caster sugar
  • 2g Vanilla essence
  • 30ml Milk
  • 15g Self-raising flour
  • 5g Vegetable oil

To serve

  • Whipped Cream
  • Maple Syrup
  • Strawberries


  1. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl with 1 tbsp of caster sugar, using an electric whisk or a stand mixer to form stiff peaks.
  2. Beat the egg yolks, 1 tbsp caster sugar and vanilla together in a separate bowl until pale and foamy, and a ribbon trail is left on the surface when the beaters are removed. Gently fold in the milk and flour until just incorporated.
  3. Fold the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture and gently turn the batter over to mix together, using the side of a metal spoon or spatula to keep all the air in the mixture.
  4. Working quickly, heat a large non-stick frying pan with a lid over a very low heat. Drizzle a little oil into the pan, then wipe it with a piece of kitchen roll – you only want a small film on the base of the pan. Make three tall pancakes by piling three spoons full of the batter into the pan, using about two thirds of the mixture. Keep them piled quite high, do not tip the pan or spread them out like you would normally do with thinner pancakes. Cover with a lid and cook for 2-4 mins, the steam will help them set. Remove the lid and add another dollop of batter to each pancake, this will create the classic height and thickness. Return the lid and cook for another 4-6 mins until the top feels slightly set.
  5. Add whipped cream, maple syrup and strawberry to create an indulgent and memorable Shrove Tuesday.

Raby Pancake Recipe and History

During lockdown Raby Castle’s fantastic volunteers have been helping to transcribe some of our archive manuscripts … and look what we found especially for Shrove Tuesday! Here this 1770s recipe for pancakes is quite different to the more usual French-style crêpe or the fluffy American pancake, separating the whites from the yolks and using water rather than milk. We’d love to see pictures of the results if anyone tries this recipe at home.


Take four eggs for three pancakes, so in proportion to the quantity you want. Cast your whites on a dish until they rise to a snow, then cast your yolks in the bowl you mean to make your pancakes in with a little salt. Then mix in your snow with your yolks, then mix it with water to a proper thickness. Then mix your whites and stir it all together. Try not to break the whites too much. Then butter your frying pan well and do one side in the pan, fold the other before the rise until it rises well.

Download Raby Castle Pancake Stack Recipe


Raby Castle and High Force are home to some amazing wildlife, including a wonderful variety of birds.

Our Bird Bingo game is the perfect activity for a cold winter’s day – you don’t even need to leave the house!

Download the activity sheet, grab a hot chocolate and watch our Bird Bingo video clip of some of the birds seen at Raby – can you be the first to spot all nine birds?

For full details, download our activity sheet which also includes everything you need for a nature walk in your local area.

If you enjoyed this then check out our other children’s activities including our Waterfall wordsearch and Deer colouring sheets.

Why not try our Raby Castle Online Scavenger Hunt? Or take a look at some brilliant Castle inspired stories to enjoy at home?

Each year during the winter months, many historic buildings close their doors to visitors. Raby Castle is no exception and after a busy festive period, the castle closes before opening again in the spring.

Although the doors may be closed, this period is anything but quiet for the castle team, as work to care for and maintain the collection continues behind the scenes. Traditionally, these months see the winter deep clean with conservation work and collection checks taking place, as the castle prepares to welcome visitors in the year ahead.

This year sees a focus on Raby’s opulent Octagon Drawing Room, an elaborate Victorian confection of gilding, silk and glass influenced by French 17th century design. Created in 1848 by Scottish Architect, William Burn for the 2nd Duke and Duchess of Cleveland, the room would have made a bold statement that both impressed their visitors and demonstrated their wealth.

It is not hard to see why this room remains a firm favourite with visitors today. Look closely at the ornate ceiling and abundant symbolism can be discovered; the Duke’s monogram, family coat of arms and links with Royalty are all present, picked out in gleaming gilt. The height is accentuated by an enormous Victorian chandelier, painstakingly cleaned by the Raby custodian each winter, which is reflected in the in the two large gilt mirrors above the fireplaces, creating an infinity effect. Bold yellow silk wallcoverings, red and gold curtains and furniture pack a visual punch almost 175 years after completion, the colours still brilliant after a major a conservation project in the 1990s.

This winter, some of the furniture originally supplied for this room by the Bond Street company G. J. Morant has been returned to display after being rested for a couple of years. It is a reminder of how the room would have looked, and how it would have been used in the past. A drawing room (or withdrawing-room) was traditionally a more female domain, the space that women would ‘withdraw’ to after dinner when the men would remain at the table or retreat to a smoking room with port and cigars. The view that this was to spare the women from political debate is certainly ripe for challenge at Raby. The 19th century visitors books, (housed in Raby archives) clearly show that guests to the castle that were vibrant and politically engaged, and both the Duke and the Duchess would have been prominent hosts. Standing in this room today, you can imagine the lively conversation in the candlelight, the sound of drinks being poured, and the warmth and smell of the wood fire from the two fireplaces.

The family entertained Royals, politicians, writers and artists through some fascinating periods of history. During the latter half of the 19th century, guests included the Prime Ministers William Ewart Gladstone and Benjamin Disraeli – both leaders of different parties who visited the castle at different times.  If walls could only talk, what more could this room tell us?

If you enjoyed this blog you might be interested in reading about Raby’s Grand Entrance Hall 

In the early 18th-century an almighty family feud almost destroyed one of Durham’s best-loved castles.

Christopher Vane, 1st Baron Barnard of Raby Castle, was said to be a quiet, book-loving man who liked his estates to be run in good order. He married Lady Elizabeth Holles, the eldest daughter of Gilbert Holles, Earl of Clare. Elizabeth was a formidable character reputed to have an ‘ungovernable temper’.

Christopher Vane 1st Baron and Elizabeth Lady Barnard, painted by renowned portrait artist Mary Beale. (Copyright Raby Castle)

In 1714, their eldest son Gilbert declared that he wished to marry Mary, the daughter of Guildford MP Morgan Randyll who was a wealthy “commoner”, and not a titled aristocrat.  Christopher and Elizabeth were furious and opposed the marriage. History lays the blame for this disagreement firmly at the feet of Elizabeth, who, as a rich heiress was said to be used to getting her own way.

To Gilbert’s horror, in protest against his marriage to Mary, his parents set about destroying his inheritance at Raby Castle.

Christopher paid his steward £50 to employ two-hundred workmen. In just a few days, the castle had been stripped of its lead, glass doors and furniture, and the floors were pulled up. The woodlands were cut down and many of the iconic Raby deer were slaughtered. Household goods were sold for whatever they would fetch, and the remains ended up on enormous bonfire.

Gilbert and Mary were not going to take the destruction of Raby Castle lying down, and successfully took Christopher and Elizabeth to Court of Chancery in the case of Vane vs Barnard.  Christopher and Elizabeth were ordered to cease the destruction and a rebuilding programme began.

Gilbert and Mary are understood to have had happy marriage, and the story of Christopher and Elizabeth’s disapproval slipped into local legend. Christopher almost vanishes into the background, whereas a furious Elizabeth was said to continue to torment her neighbours and became known locally as ‘The Old Hell Cat’. Stories of her fiery temperament continue to be told, and she is said to haunt the battlements of Raby Castle, pacing furiously back and forth, knitting with red-hot needles.

Read this and other myths and legends from County Durham in Visit County Durham’s Durham Stories online storybook.

If you enjoyed this legend, you can discover more tales inspired by Raby Castle from the winners of our 2020 Short Story Competition here 

With so many of our young visitors unable to travel to Raby during lockdown, we’ve decided to bring Raby to you.

Families love our Scavenger Hunt through the Deer Park and there’s always lots to see as you explore.

Download our Scavenger Hunt activity sheet and discover hidden treasures as you watch the video and explore the Park and Gardens at Raby Castle.

There are 20 things to spot – how many can you find?

We are following the latest government guidance to keep our visitors, staff and volunteers safe. Click HERE to read our latest update.